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John Daly

John Daly

Dr. John C.K. Daly is the chief analyst for Oilprice.com, Dr. Daly received his Ph.D. in 1986 from the School of Slavonic and East European…

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Afghanistan - Winning Hearts and Minds, One Kilowatt at a Time

Afghanistan - Winning Hearts and Minds, One Kilowatt at a Time

As the United States and International Security Assistance Force military campaign enters its eleventh year in October, it is apparent that the military campaign against the Taliban and al Qaida has hit an impasse, and a purely military solution remains a distant prospect.

Neither the Taliban and al Qaida has a unified command structure based in a particular locale, and their operations increasingly focus on “targets of opportunity,” from isolated forward operating bases to visiting dignitaries.

The 21 August rocketing by insurgents of the Afghan Bagram airbase, citadel of U.S. air power outside of Kabul, during the visit of U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey indicates a worrying penetration by insurgents of the highest levels of Afghan security, as information about Dempsey’s visit was tightly controlled and as Dempsey’s visit was hardly advertised.

Dempsey was injured in the assault, which caused minor damage to the C-17 aircraft and left two American members of the ground crew with minor injuries from shrapnel, according to U.S. officials.

More worrying to the Pentagon are the assaults by U.S. trained Afghan military forces on American forces - there have been 32 such attacks so far this year, up from 21for all of 2011, according to NATO.

But the U.S. and ISAF a have secret but hitherto underutilized weapon up their sleeve that the Taliban and al Qaida are powerless against – electricity, a “quality of life” issue that every Afghan can understand, not only as a benefit, but something that its two insurgent groups have signally failed to deliver.

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Better yet, it can involve the post-Soviets “Stans” neighbouring states, all of whom want the Afghan imbroglio so as to provide them with both a new energy market and a way out of their geographical isolation.

Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are all seeking ways to provide Afghanistan with electricity.

Afghanistan remains largely dependent upon the international system for energy supplies. In 2008, for example, Afghanistan imported 120 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity and has imported 4,800barrels of oil per day (bpd) since 2010.

When it comes to supplying electricity to Afghanistan, Uzbekistan’s Uzbekenergo has quickly emerged as a major partner of Kabul.

Uzbekistan began sending electricity to its southern neighbour two years ago and Uzbekistan is now providing an uninterrupted supply of 1.2 billion kWh of electricity a year to Afghanistan, with the capital Kabul receiving electricity 24 hours a day courtesy of Tashkent.
Farther east, Tajikistan is pinning its hopes for hard currency on starting exporting electricity to Afghanistan. However, one of the country’s major stumbling blocks – corruption - is impacting upon proposed energy export deals. In February 2012 Tajik journalists uncovered a document regarding the country’s electricity distribution. The report, signed by Prime Minister Akil Akilov, noted that the country received only half the domestic electricity supply compared to the same period in the previous year. The Prime Minister also outlined that about 5.5 billion kWh – roughly one-third of the country’s electrical output -- was simply "lost."

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Turkmenistan is also advancing into the Afghan energy market. On 10 September the Turkmen Energy Ministry announced that it will sign additional agreements with Afghanistan to increase its electricity supply and to extend until 31 December 2013previous contracts.

The U.S. administration has often talked about deploying “smart power” and “soft power” in its foreign policy. Perhaps it’s now time for Washington to add a third string to its rhetorical bow – “electrical power.”

The reality remains that neither the Taliban nor al Qaida ever delivered a single power plant to their constituents – and that a light bulb’s value, much less a water pumps, is comprehensible even to those that have never seen one. The fact that former Soviet Central Asian U.S. allies are doing the heavy lifting on providing the electricity is an added benefit.

Something to consider in the battle for “hearts and minds.”

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Philip on September 19 2012 said:
    This is a very simpliostic notion. Give the poor ignorant peasants electricity and they will love you. Very 19th C. Give the Africans schools and hospitals and they will love the British Empire. Didn't quite work out like that.

    Western secular liberals with a love of consumer livig and a horror of religious or any other kind of extremism cannot understand why to Afghans perhaps, electricity delivered by a foreign infidel is the work of the Infidel and should be destroyed. Goes against 300 years of Western rationalosm.

    If anyone reads 'The Taliban' by James Ferguson, one may begin to understand why the so-called 'medieval mindset' of the Islamic and even pre-Islamic Afghan culture persists in trumping 21C Western expectations.

    The West has traveled so far from any understanding of socially integrated communal religion (such as Islam during the Caliphates 700-1400 Ad) that the Islamic feeling of suprioruty towards spiriotually vacant Western culture and its preference for its relationship to Allah over practical offerings from Infidels is to the Western mind incomprhensible. The West left that behind after the 30 years war.

    However, having said that, reading 'the Taliban' the Talibam themselves emphasise that if Westerners had come to Afghanistan by invitation and without weapons in order to assiste the people, not only would they have been welcomed, with electricity, schools, hospitals etc. but would actually have been prtotected by the Afghans themselves due to tribal versions of 'Pashtunwali', or hospitality to sttrangers.

    Why the West always goes in with guns blazing and bombs dropping then insists it wants to build a peace that way and apparently cannot see the stsrk inherent contradiction in this approach which has failed everywhere, is quite beyond me.
  • Hans Nieder on September 19 2012 said:
    Get the **** out of Hellostan...

    That stinking place is not worth one EU or American life...

    Make Daly, the Governor-General of Afstan as he has a plan to fit the killing problem one watt at a time...

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